My Digital Revelation

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The term, digital revolution, for me, conjures up thoughts of a great paradigm shift, something that has created profound change in our lives and in many respects this seems to be true. Certainly in the way we communicate. It has seemingly resized the vastness of our planet, it may have even sped up time itself. The evidence of change seems  unarguable. In all this supposed  certainty I can’t seem to keep myself from asking what has really changed? Has our global consciousness, in some way, been lifted by the digital revolution? Are we a better world for all this change, this progress? What was it that we were revolting against anyway?  Is this a question even worth pondering? Maybe change is not the thing to focus on, maybe the focus should be on surrender. Yes surrender, to Creations boundless march.

The digital revolution to many of my generation who were practicing photography in the analogue way was like a relentless tsunami of change and many of us were unable to weather the storm. For me it required the relocation to higher ground. I retreated to a lengthy process of deconstruction which was not always pleasant however it did bring me to a new appreciation of my chosen profession. In surrender. or more accurately, the ongoing process of surrendering, I have come to find incredible possibilities in the depth and power of this medium. It is not photography itself that has been imbued with great powers, its potential has always been there, it’s how I came to perceive what I do within its fluid walls. Recontextualisation is the locus of surrender. I began to find and make room for new possibilities by giving up attachment to previously held beliefs. Although I was not aware of it at the time, the Universe had provided for me a most extraordinary guide to bring me to this realization. It was the great Richard Gorman that showed me how creativity is ever present and waiting to bestow its gifts upon us.

Richard Gorman, Bathurst Street Studio © 2010 Edward Gajdel


I became friends with Richard in the latter part of his physical existence, Christopher Cutts, our mutual friend and gallerist had brought him by my studio one day and our connection was immediate. His presence radiated with humility, this was a man who knew something about life. Richard asked if he could commission me to make a portrait of him and I accepted immediately. This was not only an opportunity to create a great portrait of a Canadian master, it was an invitation to be around wisdom and experience. We set out to make this portrait on location in Richard’s studio, with my Eight by Ten Arca Swiss and a box of Tri-X. It was a lovely afternoon which eventually ended up at Bar Italia, like most of my meetings with Richard after that. Having edited the shoot a few days later I realized that I didn’t get the shot I was looking for and I needed to continue my hunt for this man’s greatness. I invited Richard to my studio this time for a completely different approach. This time we would capture digitally against a black void. Though I didn’t see it at the time this was very much a manifestation of my dualistic conundrum about my approach to making portraits. The studio session proved easy, graceful, Richard simply gazed through the lens and into the observers psyche, I loved the gentle intensity of his gaze.

Richard Gorman, Toronto © 2010 Edward Gajdel

Here is where it all got very interesting. I was at a crossroads in my thinking about what this portrait needed to say and what form should that conversation have. So I invited Richard into my conundrum, I brought him to the studio to study the two takes and to weigh in on the process. When he first glanced at the two test prints inadvertently pinned to my viewing wall, he said …”that’s genius!”  I was confused by his reaction because I wasn’t seeing the genius in these very rough, torn, test-prints, however Richard wasn’t looking at the prints. He was looking at the entire wall and how these raw forms were playing with each other, he saw genius in how the colour print sat on top of the black & white, how they created such a powerful relationship with each other. He made me realize that I had stopped looking, that I had too many associations, expectations around what this portrait should be and I wasn’t allowing it to become what it could be. What an idea! Surrendering to creativity, making room for it in my mind. Richard taught me to treat creativity as a Universal Power that can be accessed any time that one chooses to clear away the distractions. The final portrait became an amalgam of both shoots. It welcomed perceived mistakes, like a scan that went sideways but produced the beautiful streaks, which was reminiscent of Richard’s use of the squeegee as a brush. It drew on the ability to mirror things, to build a multilayered portrait in photoshop and make a beautiful large print as the final form that would speak to people from the gallery wall. The synchronicity that flowed through this portrait was like nothing I had ever experienced. There is an ease in surrendering ones thinkingness and allowing grace to use the body and mind. This is what Richard Gorman taught me.

Richard Gorman, © 2011 Edward Gajdel